Follow the Cyborg: Miss Grit

The singer-songwriter weighs in on how racial imposter syndrome, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and a love of anime have all impacted her sound and vision

Margaret Sohn, aka Miss Grit.

Hoseon Sohn

Words by Meeja Kinsey

Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!

Bursting on the scene is mad genius Margaret Sohn, aka Miss Grit, who has captured the hearts of their fans through the singer-songwriter stories of their imposter syndrome and journey of identity. Not only are they a skilled lyricist, they also excel at playing the guitar and engineering sound, creating songs that can only be described as being manufactured in a lab. With influences ranging from the film Ex Machina to “dad rock” from their childhood, you can see a story forming throughout their song album and music videos. The profound thought and innovative details they put into their creative projects are what sets them apart from everyone else. Although their songs are written from their unique and personal experiences, anyone listening to them will be able to relate through a sense of collective nostalgia, sharing those same feelings.

The cover art for Miss Grit’s album, “Follow the Cyborg”

Hoseon Sohn

Meeja Kinsey: Although you’ve spoken about your heritage in numerous interviews you’ve done in the past, could you just share with our audience what your mix is or how you identify yourself to others?
Miss Grit: So, I am half Korean. That’s usually how I introduce myself when people ask. The other half is white, I guess like British descent, but American I guess. Yeah, my mom’s side is white and my dad’s side is Korean.

We grew up in Michigan. It’s where both my parents are from, basically. My dad came to the states when he was like 6 years old with his family, and that’s where their American journey started.

MK: I also identify as being half Korean to people. You said British background for your mom on the white side. Usually people who are mixed Asian don’t break down the white side. Have you ever looked into that aspect or do you kind of just leave it?
MG: I had always just said “white” whenever anyone asked what my other half was, ’cause I just assumed people would understand that. But I always got a kind of funny response whenever I said that. People would kind of scoff a little bit, I think because white isn’t as specific as Korean, maybe. They took issue with that maybe, but I took a 23andme DNA test, which wasn’t really necessary. I think I took it because I was curious if there’s any Japanese on our Korean side. But yeah, the other half is just like British basically, or Irish, technically. So I guess that’s kind of how I introduce myself based on other people’s reactions to when I just say white.

Miss Grit took a 23andme DNA test they were curious if there was any Japanese on their Korean side, and learned they are British, or Irish, technically on their white side.

Hoseon Sohn

MK: Yeah. I totally get that. Some Caucasians really delve into their family history, even though there’s not a direct relationship. It is interesting to see. I feel like as mixed Asians, we’ll always ask, “Okay, what’s our Asian mix?”
MG: Yeah. We don’t really have any cultural significance tied to our British side or anything.

MK: I can totally relate to that. I come from a similar background. My dad’s family is from Indiana (my white side) and my mom’s Korean. I’m from the Midwest. So, I found that moving to New York has been a bit healing for me and given me an opportunity to rediscover my Korean roots.

How has that journey been for you, and what was your upbringing like, growing up in white Michigan suburbia?
MG: It was really healing coming to New York and being around other people that were the same mix as me or just being around more Korean people, or Asian people in general.

But I think that also came with a lot of confusion on my part, because in Michigan, I was just seen as Asian. That’s how I kind of interpreted my identity because that’s how everyone else was like seeing me and voicing that. I knew I was mixed, but it wasn’t like white people really thought that was significant, at least like in that time.

I started feeling the racial imposter syndrome kick in. I felt because my upbringing was so culturally white, I was all of a sudden in New York, not seen as fully Asian. Even though I already knew and accepted that I’m half Korean, it’s still a different experience when people view you in a completely different way than you’re used to. It was kind of confusing, but a really great experience to further my understanding of myself. I think that’s just how it kind of is as a mixed person. You have to kind of understand yourself in the context of the current world, so it’s always gonna be a changing identity.

When Miss Grit moved to New York, they were not seen as fully Asian—something they knew, but it was still a different experience.

Hoseon Sohn

MK: When you were in Michigan, your identity was kind of forced on you externally. Whereas now when you’re in New York, you’re trying to figure it out.

Going back to your upbringing, we understand that your musical taste was evolving at that time. Your mom introduced you to Fiona Apple and that kind of genre. Your dad had more of the rock bands and then that whole story with your uncle just sharing all of his love of music with you through a USB. Then, of course, the high school phase. You know, you had an obligatory boy band phase.
Well, the boy band phase was in elementary school and then I was like, “I’m done with that.” 

So then that brings my follow up question. It’s like, while you were kind of figuring out what kind of music spoke to you, boy bands are obviously major in K-Pop, but did you have any other influences from Korean artists or even media, films, stuff like that?
MG: No, I honestly really didn’t. I’m trying to think. Maybe, I think my only experience was really the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, like Karen O was a big influence. Looking back, she was really the only Asian American, or even just Asian-identifying voice, I think, I was really exposed to, at least in music. I really, really loved the Yeah Yeah Yeahs because of that. I was in a cover band in high school, and we did a lot of Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs. I think the only other Asian influence from art when I was little was, we grew up watching My Neighbor Totoro, so that was a big one.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Karen O were a big influence for Miss Grit.

Hoseon Sohn

MK: I noticed that you talked about your love of anime. Japanese media in general was kind of more popular when we were younger. So, do you think that’s why you were drawn to it? You know, they sort of look like me, but just in a different way?
MG: I think so. Looking back, I’m not sure if I even processed that because it’s a different, like, medium, I guess. Seeing these characters, I’m not sure I even connected that they were Japanese. Sure. But I definitely, me and my sisters had a really deep connection to that movie, and it’s like something that connects us to each other and we hold it really close to our hearts. So I think just even the subconscious aspect of it being exposed to something like that was really impactful.

MK: As far as COVID, we’re past that for the most part now. Previously you were touring a lot and you mentioned like in the U.K. more so than America. Now that you’ve returned to doing live shows, what have you noticed about how fans are receiving your music in each of those countries? Have you connected with any Korean diaspora while in either country and would you ever consider touring/doing a tour in Korea?
MG: Oh, yeah, that’s like on my bucket list. That would be so, so cool, to play in Korea. My favorite part of playing live is just connecting with people who enjoyed the show afterwards, and people who are either Korean American or mixed or just of any Asian descent.

Being in the U.K. is kind of funny, ’cause it’s, like, a lot of white people. But I found that they’re really, really accepting of new music and eager to meet new artists. So, it’s always like a really nice experience going over there.

I do really also love playing in New York. I look out into the audience, and there are people that look like me. When you write your music, it’s like you’re writing it for yourself, basically. So people that kind of reflect different qualities in yourself or share similar interests or identities, that’s a nice way to connect with audience members. 

MK: Your previous EP covered the topics of imposter syndrome. You touched on that earlier as we were talking, so that’s kind of your story almost. Now your new album, Follow the Cyborg, seems to touch more on the journey so far and your identity. When I watched your music video for “Follow the Cyborg” I was really moved because, like you were saying, you’re writing the stories for yourself about the kind of experience you’re having. So other people who have mixed Asian backgrounds or have similar experiences, can see that amalgamation of those influences. I see the engineering. I see the musical influences, the technology, you know, the hint of anime, ex machina type of stuff, the imposter syndrome, feeling alone, assimilating into an environment that’s not quite right.

Can you elaborate on your thought process while you were creating the project and how you’re hoping to connect with your audience through that?

MG: Yeah, I guess the whole thing with Follow the Cyborg is, it’s kind of embracing, like, boundary-less spaces—part of that being gender, but also relating to racial identity. It’s not the main point of the album, but every identity that I have is all kind of mixed into that album. Like I was saying, being mixed is kind of always having to kind of adapt to your surroundings, ’cause it’s a lot about how you’re perceived by others. So I think something that’s been helpful for me in accepting myself and being comfortable with my mixed identity is embracing like that I’m not gonna figure myself out. It’s always gonna be like a changing thing. My view of myself and my mixed identity is always gonna be changing. I guess that’s something to enjoy, the journey. It’s kind of a beautiful thing to be mixed. You get to have multiple sides and can perceive yourself in more fluid ways.

MK: It definitely was very moving and you can tell that you invested so much in that project. 

Kind of shifting gears here, so food is a powerful relationship building tool, right? Do you have a favorite Korean restaurant anywhere in the world, or New York specifically, or a comfort food that you make?
MG: Hmm, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Korea, so I can’t really speak to that, but in New York, I have a soft spot in my heart for Kunjip in K-Town. I don’t know if I can even say it’s, like, the best Korean food I’ve ever had, but it’s still amazing. But I think, because it’s the restaurant that I frequented when I first came to New York and like my whole family likes to go there whenever they’re in town, it’s just a really special place in my heart. The menu is vast and stuff, and all the dishes are pretty solid.

Miss Grit’s album, “Follow the Cyborg” embraces boundary-less spaces, from gender, to racial identity.

Hoseon Sohn

Published on April 3, 2023

Words by Meeja Kinsey

Meeja Kinsey is a culture and media enthusiast who works in soccer. She is a fanatic of contrasting images and concepts, coming from a background blended with Korean roots and Deaf parents. As a result of moving frequently, she relies heavily on her social media network to build a sense of community. You can always initiate a convo with a good dad joke or follow her on Instagram at @nicetomeeja.